Emotional development among early school-age children: Gender differences in the role of problem behaviours.


There has been an increasing focus on social and emotional development in educational programmes in early childhood as both variables are believed to influence behavioural outcomes in the classroom. However, relationships between social and emotional development and behaviour in early childhood have rarely been explored. This article sets out to investigate the conceptualisation of these variables and their interrelationships. Structural equation models were used to assess whether differences exist between boys and girls in relation to social and emotional competences, which could affect the relative success of such programmes. This article is based on cross-sectional data collected from 749 four- to six-year-olds and their teachers. The findings generally supported the hypothesised relationships between social and emotional development variables and prosocial behaviour (including internalising behaviour) for boys and girls. However, some gender differences were noted in externalising behaviour, which teachers often consider to be most significant due to its potentially disruptive nature in the classroom.